6 Defensive Driving Tips for Avoiding Accidents in Nashville
Given Nashville’s intense population growth in recent years, it’s not surprising that traffic has become an issue across the metro, as well. Unfortunately, with increased traffic comes more traffic accidents–and especially so in Greater Nashville, whose rate of traffic accidents is now ten times higher than its rate of population growth. For drivers trying to navigate this growth, defensive driving skills can come in very handy to help you avoid collisions. Here are six defensive driving tips for getting around Nashville safely.
- Assume other drivers aren’t paying attention. The philosophy behind defensive driving is that you drive with the anticipation that other drivers are going to make mistakes or fail to follow the rules of the road (which mostly happens because they’re not paying attention). By assuming the drivers around you will run stop signs, cut you off, drift into your lane, fail to yield, etc., you’ll naturally take precautions and give them space so if they do these things, you won’t be in their path.
- Maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. Your comfort level for this technique should depend on the type of road you’re driving and the speed you’re traveling, but as a general rule, try to maintain at least three seconds of distance between you and the car in front of you. This will give you time to react to sudden stops by other cars or unexpected objects/hazards in the road. To this end, never tailgate. It’s an aggressive and foolish tactic that gives you zero reaction time if the driver ahead of you does something unexpected.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Mindfulness (i.e., being in the moment) is the key to safe driving. The eyes of the defensive driver are always on the move—checking mirrors every few seconds, taking note of the other vehicles around them, paying attention to their peripheral vision, etc. Doing so will alert you to anything unusual, so you have time to anticipate and respond to avoid collisions.
- Look farther ahead. In heavy traffic, it’s easy to become mesmerized or just focus on what’s immediately ahead of you or around you. True defensive driving requires you to look farther down the road, so you have more time to anticipate any obstacles or threats ahead. A good rule of thumb is to keep an eye-lead of about 15 seconds ahead of you—approximately the distance of one city block at slow speeds or a quarter of a mile on the freeway.
- Be mindful at all intersections. Another way of putting this one is “don’t trust green lights.” Part of assuming other drivers won’t follow the rules is anticipating the possibility that a driver will run their red light and plow into you. When approaching an intersection, look as far down each direction as you can to note approaching drivers and see if they’re stopping. If your vision is obstructed, slow down as you approach, so you have time to swerve if an oncoming car runs the light.
- Minimize distractions. Turn off your phone. Don’t eat or drink in the car. Don’t turn to look at passengers when you’re talking to them. Keep the stereo volume down, so it doesn’t overwhelm you, drown out sirens, etc. Pull over if you’re drowsy. Distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents, so don’t become a distracted driver yourself.